Tag Archives: Swiss

Pottery, ceramics, and the snap of a tongue serve as reminders of a beloved man

When you asked Darvin Luginbuhl the age-old question, “What is art?”, he’d turn it right around and respond with a pointed “What do YOU think art is?”

It’s a difficult question and one for which Darvin probably never answered point-blank. Because, artist that he was, Darv never put “art” into a box. He could find art in everything and wanted everyone else to share that experience of discovery.

For example, my husband once asked Darv if he would help him design a children’s Christmas coloring contest for the newspaper he edited. Darv very subtly suggested that the traditional Christmas picture of Santa or Christmas scene — meant to be colored by each child — lacked inventiveness and would produce nothing more than a colored picture. Instead, he suggested including a blank page with instructions that each child draw or color a picture of Christmas. It was his way of encouraging youngsters to discover art from their hearts. It worked.

Growing up, our back door was a quick, 30-second jog from the Luginbuhl’s back door. I say back doors because there was no need to use the front door. Darv and my dad, who were on the faculty together at Bluffton University for about 30 years, were often found in the middle of one of their respective gardens or in Darv or Dad’s shop. Their wives — Evelyn and my mom — still share a friendship as close as sisters.

Our house was always filled with various pottery and ceramic items created by Darv. Because his son, Bill, and I were childhood buddies, my Christmas and birthday presents were often a ceramic pot filled with candy. When my husband and I married, my mom asked Darv to make a tea set for us. The gray and blue-glazed teapot and mugs are still in use after nearly 33 years.Tea-Set

So when Darvin died yesterday at age 91, it felt as if a huge piece of this small, Swiss community had gone with him. No more would we hear his cheery, “Vie gehts?” Even in the past few years as he struggled with health issues that interfered with his mobility, that cheerfulness remained intact and conversations were always entertaining.

Little bits and pieces flit through my mind as I thought about Darv’s contributions to life in a small town, as well as to the wider art community. For as much as we knew him as a small-town Swiss boy who produced beautiful pottery and ceramics, the art world knew him as a creator of fine art and a man of great knowledge.

But there are other, more intimate memories — like Darv and Dad calling us  home from wherever we were playing. Darv could snap his tongue against the roof of his mouth so loud that we could hear him at the old college track field nearly a quarter mile from home. At the same time, Dad blew through a conch shell, producing a quirky “conch honk” that could be heard just as far away. Who needed cell phones? If we missed one, we’d hear the other.

When we wanted to earn quick spending money, one of them would hire us to dig dandelions. We always went to Darv first because he paid a penny for a dozen and Dad made us fill a whole bushel basket. Or something like that…

Ah Darv, we’re going to miss you. We’ve got pieces of pottery to remind us of your creativity, but more importantly you left us with a passel of memories.  Thank you.

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On turning 70 and celebrating big

Nope. Not me. This time it’s the other Mary Steiner celebrating a milestone. My sister-in-law, Mary Steiner Lord, turns 70 on January 3. It is a fact that amazes me. Probably it amazes her, too.

This is the woman who — according to an unnamed source — saw Elvis Presley in person. It was one of his usual performances complete with “screaming hordes of girls”. Apparently, my source’s details are sketchy since he was, at the time, just a little brother.

This is the woman who plans elaborate Halloween parties for her eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 16 to 2. No one is allowed in without a costume. Everyone complies, including her husband, Guy, and grown children.

This is the same woman, a faithful Quaker who — faced with living in Salt Lake City with her doctor husband and young children —  joined the local ERA chapter, distributing material door to door, pre-school-age daughter in tow. It was she who sent a tiny ERA t-shirt when our first daughter was born.

This is the woman who takes her grandchildren along to the annual Quaker summer meeting — even when their parents can’t attend — making sure they get to experience the week-long activities.

Mary Steiner Lord (back row, second from right), with her family

When her young Bluffton nieces are old enough to travel without their parents, she invites them to join her family in Milwaukee, taking them to Brewers’ games, art museums, zoos, and revolving restaurants high over the city, where she indulges their fondness for fancy desserts.

It is also she who also generously invites the daughters of her distant Swiss cousins to spend entire summers with her family in Milwaukee, taking them to Chicago and Bluffton to meet their other American cousins.

This is the woman who loves to paint, play piano, attend the symphony. She wouldn’t miss a single performance of her grandchildren — Irish dancing, violin, piano, soccer, cross country. And when her daughter, daughters-in-law, and sons decide to tackle triathlons — she’s there.

But this Sunday, the focus will be on her. It’s going to be a big “Let’s fete Mary” party. But I’ll betcha anything, her eyes will be on her kids and grandkids — the loves of her life.